Hoboken advocate says NY Waterway at Union Dry Dock would be ‘a colossal mistake’

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In one of the oldest remaining industrial buildings still standing in Hoboken, the Fund for a Better Waterfront hosted an open house where their main goal was to inform residents why Union Dry Dock isn’t well suited for use by New York Waterway.

In an interview, we asked FBW Executive Director Ron Hine what message he and the organization would be stressing to residents during their open house at the old Neumann Leathers building.

“We’re trying to bring attention to the Union Dry Dock issue, it’s one of the last pieces of the waterfront park that we’re trying to complete, and it’s been an ongoing battle dating back to November 2017 when New York Waterway purchased the site,” began Hine.

“It’s very important that we bring the public’s attention to the issue, that they understand the details of it. Because if they did, I think the solution is really simple. [NY Waterway] can choose to re-locate to the Hoboken Terminal, considered the best option of all, [they can go] to Binghamton ferry site in Edgewater, Greenville Pier in Jersey City and the two sites in Weehawken, one of which they already occupy.”

It’s been almost a year since Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has said anything publicly about the ongoing drama over potentially establishing a ferry refueling and repair terminal for NY Waterway at Union Dry Dock.

The open house, which was scheduled weeks ago, comes on the heels of the City of Hoboken issuing no work permits after two NY Waterway ferries were spotted at Union Dry Dock earlier this month.

Additionally, on Saturday, March 9th, FBW along with Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse and Resilience Paddle Sports, is organizing a citywide march at Pier A Park to send a message to Murphy regarding the aforementioned plan.

Advocates such as FBW believe that the Union Dry Dock is too important an ecological site to support heavy industrial use, while the NY Waterway CEO Arthur Imperatore believes that a ferry maintenance terminal at Union Dry Dock is not only critical to the maintain the company’s fleet, but represents the last vestige of industrial activity on the Hoboken waterfront.

As residents mingled during the open house, they were instructed by FBW staff to fill out postcards that contained a message of protecting the waterfront, with their names and addresses so that they could be mailed directly to the governor.

“We’re trying to convince the Governor and other state officials that the Union Dry Dock site is the absolutely wrong place to put [a ferry maintenance facility],” Hine noted.

We also asked Hine to respond to Imperatore’s claim to maintain some form of industrial use along the waterfront.

“Well, you still have that at the Hoboken Terminal, and that’s 88 acres owned by NJ Transit and you have a multimodal transportation hub: it’s designated for this kind of purpose,” Hine said.

“The rest of Hoboken’s Waterfront has been transformed. When we first started in 1990, none of Hoboken’s waterfront had been developed. It was a former industrial, maritime site with all kinds of companies that were repairing ships and ocean liners, and all that activity took place for nearly a century,” said Hine.

“But that’s all changed now. Hoboken made a commitment to develop a residential and commercial development and the other part, something we have been advocating for three decades, is to complete a contiguous public waterfront park from one end to the other, and we now have that opportunity to do that. Union Dry Dock would be one of the final pieces to make the waterfront contiguous,” Hine explained.

“To put an industrial operation at that location right in the middle of where our waterfront park should go would just be a colossal mistake.”

A spokesman for the governor’s office did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

9 COMMENTS

  1. The Town Of Hoboken had years to purchase the Union Dry Dock property for a fair price. They did not. They blocked other sales of this property over proper zoning of the property. This gave the owners of Union Dry Dock no choice but to sell to a similar type of business. That’s where NY Waterway comes in. Perfect situation for both companies. The ferries now have a great location for their maintenance department in the middle of their operations that service New Jersey residents. Also Union Dry Dock receives fair compensation for the property they own. If the town of Hoboken payed the value of the property, instead of trying to take the property. This would not have been an issue. Just extend your park somewhere else. Plenty of piers on the waterfront you let go to collapse.

  2. NY Waterways made a huge profit selling their property in Weehawken for luxury condos. Have and tried playing land grab games with New Jersey Transit to further increase their profits to get their greedy hands on the Union Dry Dock property in Hoboken. Fully expected NYW to spend a great deal of money to pretend that they are victims in this transition rather the predators. The truly sad part is that taxpayers taxpayers subsidize their operation.

  3. I wonder if anyone on the Hoboken side has reached out to NYWW to have a serious conversation about what other locations would work for them, and what it would take financially to get them to choose each theoretically workable location?

    The State has no legal power to force NYWW to choose a different location, so the only real solution is offering them a better business deal that they are willing to accept at a different location. Essentially, Hoboken and the State need to be willing to throw in enough money in some form (could be a sweetheart lease at Hoboken Terminal and/or an inflated purchase price by Hoboken to buy the the UDD property.)

    But any serious conversation (as opposed to the posturing for public consumption that we’ve seen so far) would require sitting down with NYWW to find out what their requirements are. Without knowing NYWW’s ask, how does the Governor even know what we’re asking him to step in and do? What if anything is Hoboken willing to throw into the pot?

    So far, at least publicly, the “ask” of the Governor seems to be that he use his magical powers to simply make NYWW vacate the Hoboken property and sell it to Hoboken for cost, something he has no power to do. He could publicly make clear that the State won’t interfere if Hoboken reinstitutes eminent domain proceedings, but that doesn’t seem to be Hoboken’s ask anymore. If it is, perhaps the Governor could now be persuaded to do that, though Hoboken would also have to still be willing to use that tool despite knowing that the financial risk to the City from its use is now far greater than it was when all this started back on 2017. Realistically, the ED ship has probably sailed.

    Demonstrating the scale of public opposition and making clear that Hoboken will use all legal means at at its disposal to obstruct NYWW from moving forward at the UDD site are certainly helpful steps but by themselves they won’t get the job done.

    Hopefully there is more being done behind the scenes to figure out the terms of a real solution that NYWW would be willing to agree to.
    Then, between Hoboken and the State, there could be discussions about how a deal could be funded, since ultimately, whether we like it or not, the choice is NYWW’s to make, not the Governor’s.

  4. To posturingalonewontgetadealdone: You are not correct. The State has ALL the power in this situation. They are permitting NYWW to purchase it under the auspices of NJ Transit (which would bar Hoboken from taking the property through imminent domain). I take the ferry every day to work and appreciate the service they provide, but it is not necessary for them to be there. They could have remained in Weehawken but they purposely chose to make a risky real estate speculation that could get ultimately them in trouble. At the end of the day, Hoboken is offering them space at the Hoboken Terminal which makes far more sense for everyone involved. As for Sully…I see him often commenting on this topic and is cleary on the NYWW PR payroll. At the end of the day, NYWW should make the right move and do what is best for Hoboken and themselves. Go to the Hoboken Terminal.

    • Sorry Fred but I am correctand you are not. The State helped create this mess as you correctly point out, and that makes them ethicallly and politically responsible to help fix it. But NYWW owns the property not the State, and the State can’t just dictate to a private company what to do on private property. The City can’t either as long as the use is permitted under existing zoning and the property in question is zoned for maritime and has been a working shipyard for many years. Obviously you are also wrong about Hoboken offering Hoboken Terminal since only the State/NJT could offer that and if they have it hasn’t been reported publicly. But as I said, a sweetheart lease at Hoboken Terminal could be the solution because it would probably be something NYWW could be persuaded to accept if it was offered on attractive enough terms But they can’t be simply ordered by the governor to go there they need to be persuaded.

  5. Oh Mark, calm down and get your pathetic life together. Stay there in the cave where she can stroke your ego and promote your arrogance towards anyone not in agreement.

  6. If Zimmer had taken her head out of the rain barrel and focused on saving the waterfront, maybe Monarch and the new Fueling port could have been stopped!
    Even Dave Roberts didn’t F$ck up this badly…

  7. Does anyone really think that the union dry dock would ever be turned into a park? Its been a dry dock for over a 100 years and there must be more oil and chemicals in the soil. It would take the city of Hoboken years and millions of dollars to clean up.

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